Chris Patten is Chancellor of Oxford University. When MP for Bath (1979-92) he served as Minister for Overseas Development, Secretary of State for the Environment and Chairman of the Conservative Party. He was Governor of Hong Kong from 1992 until 1997, Chairman for the Independent Commission on Policing after the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 and European Commissioner for External Relations from 1999 until 2004. The Observer has described him as 'the best Tory Prime Minister we never had'.
Patten's diaries over the next five years describe in detail his
day-to-day battles with the Chinese ... a terrific tale, one
that will appeal not just to Sinologists but to all historians,
since it is effectively a record of the end days of an empire ...
At times, the diaries read like a novel ... His chatty style makes
the[m] an easy read -- Simon Murray * Daily Telegraph *
wonderfully waspish, fascinating and rude in spades about all the people who deserve nothing less. -- Stephen Vines * Literary Review *
Patten has now published his diaries of five tumultuous years in office, from 1992 to 1997, recording battles against the comrades, the tycoons, the doubters in the cabinet and mandarins everywhere. As you might expect, they are urbane, sardonic and quotable ... his plan was to extend the vote and to democratise local government. The magnates were aghast, the diplomats shuddered and the Chinese, who loathed such notions, ostracised the governor after one round of talks in Beijing ... Yet it was a brave and decent thing to try, an endeavour recorded for posterity in these pages. -- Michael Sheriden * Sunday Times *
the diaries themselves, kept from the time of his appointment in April 1992 to the handover just over five years later, have not been seen before and make for consistently good reading ... Patten also has something powerful to say about Hong Kong today. This takes the form of a passionate polemical essay, written as a postscript to the diaries, about China's increasingly brutal sabotage of the Hong Kong deals. Patten brings terrific energy to his denunciation of Xi Jinping's crackdown on the territory. ... Twenty-five years on, with the global order turning more nationalist and inward, the diaries are a witness that despite his limited achievements, it was Patten who called the outcome more accurately and more honourably than they did. -- Martin Kettle * The Guardian *
As an insider's account, The Hong Kong Diaries is filled with that daily sense of grappling with a multi-headed hydra ... There is an inescapable poignancy to reading this diary in 2022: it is a snapshot of a unique moment at the end of empire, and a now fading picture of an extraordinary society that flourished in its brief moment of freedom. -- Isabel Hilton * Times Literary Supplement *
Lord Patten spent much of his time in Hong Kong struggling against British officials and members of the local elite who believed it was not worth trying to push China to accept more democracy in pre-handover Hong Kong-much less expanding it without China's approval. Some of the most riveting detail in this rich volume relates to these tensions. ... The author's entertaining language brings these diaries to life. * Economist *
In Patten's diaries we see everyone from Mother Teresa to Margaret Thatcher passing through the governor's living room ... Eschewing the feathered hat, the uniform and all the other flummery that goes with governing an outpost of the British empire, he plunges into a series of walkabouts, holds public meetings, looks for ways of redistributing some wealth and makes no secret of his sympathy for the democrats. -- Chris Mullin * Spectator *
minutely observe[s] how China broke its promises - first insidiously and gradually and then openly and suddenly - and the impact on the lives of Hong Kongers ... Patten's diaries of his frustrating yet rewarding stint as governor cover the years from 1992 to the 1997 handover ... [he] is a genial and self-deprecating companion through the years leading up to the handover ... In the course of his diaries, Patten argues convincingly that for Britain or any other country to abandon liberal principles and yield to the Chinese Communist party's demands at every opportunity brings neither political nor commercial benefits. The trade and investment statistics he cites from the final decades of British rule do indeed suggest there is little correlation between grovelling and real rewards for business. -- Victor Mallet * Financial Times *